After 28 hours of confusion at the border, Pakistan sent back 87 Indian prisoners around 2.30pm on Tuesday through the joint check post in Attari .
On Monday, the 86 fishermen and a civilian, Inayat Ullah, had to wait across the zero line from 10am to 11pm and then spend a night in the Lahore jail after being told no Indian officer had turned up to receive them. While the Indian side counter-blamed Pakistan, the media also kept an eye on the gates until Monday midnight.
Brought to the border again on Tuesday morning, the captives broke into smiles as soon as they entered India. They had spent about a year in Pakistani prisons. “It was a long wait (at the zero line),” said Gujarat fisherman Umesh Kanti, adding: “Being taken back to the Lahore jail hurt the most. I hope Pakistan didn’t lie about Indian officers’ not turning up but it should not have happened.”
Caught fishing in the Pakistani waters about a year ago, the group had been thrown into the Karachi jail. “It is good to be back home and starting life again,” said Kanti.
Food, medicine issues for those still captive
Another prisoner from Gujarat, Shanti, recalled the tough time in Pakistani jail. “After catching us, Pakistani guards beat us up. In the jail, too, we are deprived of food and medicine. The Indian government should secure the release of all those still stuck there,” he added. Replying to question about the count of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails, Shanti said there would be nearly 500.
“The governments should deal with fishermen leniently, as they are not criminals but ones who stray into neighbour’s waters by mistake,” said Shanti.
J&K man back home
Along with the 86 fishermen, Inayat Ullah of Baramulla in Jammu and Kashmir, is also back. He did not reveal how he had entered Pakistan in 2011 but alleged that the neighbouring country had tried to force him into accepting that he worked for Indian intelligence agencies. “I always prayed for my freedom, and now I am eager to meet my family,” he said.